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FreshRoast Roaster - Thomas Maynard's Review
Posted: November 5, 2006, 6:59pm
review rating: 8.5
feedback: (0) comments | read | write
FreshRoast Roaster
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Arrow The FreshRoast Roaster has 69 Reviews
Arrow The FreshRoast Roaster has been rated 8.29 overall by our member reviewers
Arrow This product has been in our review database since November 30, 2001.
Arrow FreshRoast Roaster reviews have been viewed 322,238 times (updated hourly).

Quality Reviews
These are some of the best-written reviews for this product, as judged by our members.
Name Ranking
Jon Stout 9.50
Steve Pacenka 9.00
Jerry Kalpin 9.00
Arnie Quinn 9.00
Joseph Hession 8.75

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Ratings and Stats Overall Rating: 8.8
Product Reviewed: Fresh Roast Plus 8
Manufacturer: Fresh Beans Inc. Quality: 9
Average Price: $75.00 Usability: 9
Price Paid: $71.00 Cost vs. Value 9
Where Bought: Burman Coffee (eBay) Aesthetics 8
Owned for: 1 month Overall 9
Writer's Expertise: I like coffee Would Buy Again: Yes
Similar Items Owned: N/A
Bottom Line: The roaster for the common man.  Get one and make your life better!
Positive Product Points

Dead simple to use, small countertop footprint, biggest coffee bang for the buck.

Negative Product Points

Some chaff escapes (not much).

Detailed Commentary

I won't rehash all the comments in earlier reviews.  I will limit myself to my own adaptation to the FR+8, and how I use it.

There have been plenty of comments on its small roast size.  For me, it's perfect: two scoops of coffee yield enough roasted beans for two (20 oz) pots of coffee.  At my rate of consumption that's two day's worth of beans.  I'm the only coffee drinker in my household, and I have no complaints about batch size.  I roast every other or every third day.  The process takes about 15-20 minutes from setup to cleanup.  It couldn't be easier!

My first two batches through the FR+8 used the built-in timer knob and timing recommendations from Sweet Marias website.  I got great results and enjoyed the coffee immensely.  But, I thought I could do better.  So, I created a "Roasting Log" form which records the date, time, relative humidity, bean variety, various elapsed roasting times (start, first crack start/end, second crack start, cool down begin, beans at room temp, and "notes").  I will happily send a copy of this Microsoft Word document to any/all who request it.

Here's how I roast: I sort and measure the beans (2 rounded scoops); plug in the roaster (in the "off" position); rotate the dial to the maximum 8-minute position and start my stopwatch.  I monitor the color and smell of the batch and note on my log  sheet the (elapsed) time of the very first crack, then the beginning of "first crack".  I log the end of First Crack, and log the time of the very last crack.

Depending on my roasting goal, I may allow additional time to elapse.  City Roast will (according to Sweet Marias) occur around 6 minutes (elapsed).  City+ will occur at around 6:30; Full City occurs at around 7:00, and Vienna occurs around 7:30 (all elapsed times).  As my experience grows with my own roaster, my own line voltage, and my own results, these times may vary, but this is what I'm using for starters.  There is no finer resource for home roasting (IMHO) than Sweet Marias!  Go there and learn.

When the roast has achieved the targeted goal/time  I manually rotate the knob to the "Cool" setting and allow it the full two minutes -- again using my stopwatch as my guide.  NOTE: I don't know if it's just my machine, or if it is generic to all newer FR+8's, but the fan NEVER stops.  On my first batch I expected the fan to stop after the 2-minute cooldown period.  It didn't.  In fact, the fan starts as soon as the unit is plugged in -- even in the "Off" setting.  Your mileage may vary.  That's why I now use my stopwatch as my guide.

After allowing 2 minutes for cooldown, I unplug the roaster, carefully remove the chaff catcher (to avoid creating a mess), and dump the beans into my stainless steel mesh colander.  I continue to agitate/shake/stir/fan the beans until they are cool to the touch ("room temperature").  Some folks suggest putting the freshly roasted beans in the freezer to accelerate cooling.  I resist this idea since I fear it may introduce off-odors (or worse) into my freshly roasted coffee.  Maximum airflow to room temperature is the key.  When the beans reach room temperature I log this time on my log sheet and dump the beans into an airtight container.   I also make any notes on my log sheet (color, fragrance, etc.).  Because I am totally anal, I will also (the following day, just before grinding) take a digipic of the roasted beans for my log file).  This (of course) is optional.

With the fresly roasted beans safely stored away, I carefully brush out the chaff collector (over the sink) using a cheap Harbor Freight parts brush.  When the screen (or collector) looks "too oily" (not yet), I'll degrease the whole assembly either in the sink or in the dishwasher.  I'll update this review when that becomes necessary.  When the roasting chamber becomes dangerously oily (also not yet), I'll wipe it out thoroughly with paper towels.  (This will also be documented in a future review update.)

I usually allow at least a 12-hour "outgassing" period before grinding and brewing a batch.

So far my results have been outstanding.  I can give my highest (i.e., 9 out of 10 -- I avoid extremes) rating to the FR+8 roaster.  The only conceivable improvement might be to slow the roasting times a bit.  This is usually achieved by using a Variac (autotransformer) to control the voltage seen by the roaster.  The problem with this approach is that in addtion to lowering the heat it also slows the fan -- unless you make extensive mods to the roasting/fan circuits.  I'm not prepared to take such drastic measures.  If I feel that level of control is necessary to achieve the roasts I desire then I will seek a different roaster!

Hopefully this has given you enough information (and a few pointers (ahem) Sweet Marias) that you will progress down the home roasting path to coffee Nirvana.  I'm on my way, and I wish you the very best of luck, and Perfect Cups to you!

Oh, and my "negative product points" mentioned earlier: some of the chaff does escape the collector.  It's only a minor percentage of the total, and I have addressed the issue by inverting my stainless steel mesh colander over the top of the FR+8 during the roasting cycle.  This captures about 90% of the "escaped" chaff during the roast, and a simple rap or two on the sink edge will clean the colander of chaff-bits before cooling the beans.  Even using this precaution some chaff will escape.  I roast on my stovetop, with the hood fan running.  In my experience this captures nearly all of the escaping chaff.  A wet paper towel is all I need to "disappear" any traces of my activities.  Of course there is this magical smell left behind that turns the heads of my (condo) neighbors.  That, as they say, is "priceless."  Good roasting to you!

UPDATE: After roasting about five batches I decided that knowing the roasting chamber temperature would be helpful.  My metal dial thermometer wouldn't fit through the slots on the chaff collector, but my Digital Multi-Meter (DMM) has a thermocouple wire that not only fits in the slots, but also slides easily through the wire mesh in the top half of the chaff collector.  I guess it's about 20- or 22-gauge wire.

Well, the difference it makes is astounding.  While it doesn't change anything about the roast profile, nor does it modify the performance of the FR+8, it does tell me where I am in the roast process.  Using the invaluable information from Sweet Maria's website (http://sweetmarias.com/roasting-VisualGuideV2.html) along with the roasting chamber temperature readout gives me a great deal of confidence as a newbie home roaster.

For instance, I now know for certain when First Crack has ended and when Second Crack has begun.  Before the DMM I used to wonder, "Was that the very last straggler from First Crack, or the very first volunteer from Second Crack?"  (With the FR+8, and its fast roast times and my inexperience, it was difficult to know -- now I do!)

So, however you do it, add a temperature readout to your FR+8 and your coffee will only get better.  I happened to have a DMM with a thermocouple (and I also have a couple of metal dial thermometers).  Using the DMM allowed me to monitor temps without making any mods to my roaster -- but I'd gladly drill a hole (or enlarge one) to install a metal dial: it's absolutely worth the effort.  Well, it is when you combine it with the Sweet Maria's info.  If you're even thinking about roasting coffee go there and learn.


Buying Experience

I bought my roaster on eBay from Burman Coffee.  I got it cheap, they threw in a pound of Honduran beans ("Finca Las Canas"), and I've been extremetly happy ever after.  Score the best deal you can find, and never look back!  Happy roasting!

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review rating: 8.5
Posted: November 5, 2006, 6:59pm
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